This is my homily for Sunday 18 July 2010, 16th Sunday in ordinary time. On-campus Mass at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ resumes 7:30 p.m. Sunday August 29 for the 2010-2011 school year. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.
Genesis 18:1-10a | Psalm 15 | Colossians 1:24-28 | Luke 10:38-42
[_01_] Martha is occupied with the work of the house. This is the work of serving her guests.
Martha is convinced that hard work will produce advantages. Therefore, she puts forth effort, even overtime for her family and guests – including Jesus and probably some traveling companions – who have stopped in.
Jesus notices how hard she is working. But Jesus says that her sister Mary has the better part.
Mary seems to be lagging behind and is not even moving. Yet, Mary has gained something better. How could Mary have a head start? What’s that – advantage -- about?
[_02_] This encounter among Mary, Martha, and Jesus is a reminder that God freely bestows gifts on us, even when we are not noticing them or working for them or deserving of them.
In Psalm 127, we read about the house which symbolizes our lives. The house for which we give our lives. The house is our shelter our home, our existence. And, the house is also a burden to construct, to renovate, and to maintain.
Martha knows this as well as anyone. The house is the symbol of our lives. Psalm 127 reads:
“If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil.
In vain is your earlier rising, your going later to rest, you who toil for the bread you eat: when he pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber.” (Psalm 127)
[_03_] The Psalm reminds us who the builder is … who the architect is of our lives. And, we also know that Christ is the cornerstone. The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Such an idea does not mean that we should not work hard or do our best. However, this idea - of Christ as the architect and the cornerstone – reminds us that the results are beyond our control.
What we often want – (Martha too, it seems) – are both advantage and control.
Martha wants control.
[_04_] Martha is vigilant over the house, the its furnishings, and probably over her sister as well.
Martha identifies the differences, weaknesses to be corrected in all these things. She finds this a deficiency in her sister’s behavior. This difference does not please Martha.
Mary herself is identified as the less productive – if not lazy – sibling. Martha sees this as a weakness, something to be addressed and changed.
And, we might even say that Martha sees Mary as her opponent, if not her enemy. Sometimes, even the people we love can be obstacles to us, even enemies.
Martha might also recall that we are called to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us” (Matthew 5:44-45)
We cannot win out (or defeat) a person (even if the person does not please us) the way we can win a soccer game … the way Spain beat Holland in the World Cup.
However, Martha is going to try this competitive approach to a rival. She perceives a weakness in Mary and Martha wants to score a point.
Thus, she asks, “ Lord, do you not care that my sister is not helping me?“
Well, our Lord cares ..but he also cares more for Martha than her desire for victory over Mary.
[_05_] What Martha is being told – as we all are– is about the real advantage in life.
We don’t gain true advantage by pointing out the failings of others, for we can only change ourselves.
Our advantage does not come in outperforming others.
Rather, Martha is called to bring her own dreams and work to Jesus and to take a break from the action.
[_06_] And, the Lord helps us when we surrender to him. This surrender does not mean that we are conceding or quitting.
This is not Spain surrendering to the Netherlands and giving up in the World Cup.
This surrender is our prayer, our meditation, the better part, the best part of the match. [__end___]